Today, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation, when we commemorate the visit of the archangel Gabriel to Mary. A popular subject with painters throughout Christian history, the Annunciation is often portrayed as an inevitable encounter. Gabriel tells Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus the Christ. Mary responds with a resounding “yes” to Gabriel’s pronouncement: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
In painted depictions of the scene Mary never looks quite as surprised as she could be to hear such a strange and life-altering message. But we know she was surprised; or at least that Gabriel assumed she would be uncomfortable in some measure. After he greets her, the first words out of the archangel’s mouth are, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Do not be afraid. These are words that are only communicated when there is something worthy of fear. And Gabriel’s reassurance was well said at the time.
Fear is an understandable reaction to facing the unknown—even more so when facing something we know to be perilous. Mary had every reason to fear the sacred task given to her. Childbearing under the best of circumstances included risk, and in her case that risk was compounded by circumstance: she was not yet married, and the claims about the child she carried sounded grandiose.
But Mary found a way to focus on the part of Gabriel’s message that assured her of God’s abiding presence. In the very moment she realized that her life was changed forever, Mary chose a self-sacrificing love over any fears she may have been feeling. There are many reasons for Marion devotion, and such devotion takes many forms. Today, when grief and uncertainty surround us with their heavy pull toward despair, we can remember the witness of our sister Mary. We can rejoice in the truth that, even when facing the vast expanse of an unknown future, Mary said “yes” to God.